Thursday, 7 June 2012

Pictures paint a thousand words

It's an old saying, "a picture paints a thousand words".  But how true it is...

Try describing a system, a product, a process with nothing but words.  Whether this description is spoken or written, people may understand what you are describing but they will paint a picture of it in their mind.  That view may be different from person to person.

Demonstrate a system, a product or a process and each and every person will see the same 'picture' and understand what you are describing.

But what happens if the system, product or process has not been developed yet? 

You have the option of prototyping, wire frames, screen shots etc.  This will be effective for a lot of applications, but what if it is not a physical product or has many interactions?

Diagrams, illustrations...

In most of the documentation I have produced in my BA career there has always been some form of diagram, process flow or mock ups to assist in the understanding of requirements.  I have found it invaluable and on many occasions the 'supporting' text is only given a detailed review once or twice... I am thinking of process flows with annotation.

I have also come across Aotea Studios and their Business Analysis Illustrated resources, which offer great illustrations on Business Analysis techniques.  It got me wondering, is it possible to replace written documentation with illustrations, graphics, prototypes, wire frames etc? 

Nah!  You're always going to require the textual descriptions, objectives, written requirements etc.

But like Infographics, I think it is possible to replace the old stuffy documentation with more visually capturing and interesting documentation.  Documentation that would inspire and motivate.  Documentation that would actually be 'read'!!!

How many times have you written a document and know full well that you are probably the only person to actually read it cover to cover (ok you've only read it as you're writing or to proof read)

Now for the irony... no illustrations in the blog!!!  How many have read all of this!?  Maybe my next blog post will be fully graphical.


  1. It's worth mentioning that I am not talking about UML diagrams, although these could form part of the illustrations and do assist in understanding processes and requirements without a lot of text.

    UML, images and other illustrations

  2. Would you look at that Aotea Studios have posted a blog on exactly this same issue: